Porto is one of the oldest cities in Europe, the former capital of the country and the current capital of port wine. It is also a lively industrial center, the historical part of which, constantly inhabited since at least the 4th century, received UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996. Unlike other large cities in the country, the center of Porto is not so much baroque as granite and monumental. According to petwithsupplies, Porto is one of the largest cities in Portugal.
The inhabitants of Porto were called and continue to be called “tripeiros” – “offal eaters”. Soup made from it is still the signature delicacy of the city. At the same time, the citizens in the cultural sense are kept apart from the rest of Portugal, and here you can often hear the phrase: “Porto is a nation.” Travelers also notice that this city is somewhat rougher and more mercantile than the rest of the country. Another proverb says: “Porto works, Braga prays, Coimbra studies, and Lisbon earns money.”
In the architectural sense, the city is very diverse: there are both medieval monuments and modern buildings. All this is very interesting, although it is quite difficult to explore on foot due to the extremely hilly landscape and many stairs.
Communication and Wi-Fi
You can call Russia from any of the street pay phones that accept both coins and Creditofone calling cards. The latter are purchased at post offices, newspaper and tobacco kiosks and offices of Telecom Portugal. Tariffs for international calls are reduced after 22:00, for domestic calls after 20:00. The cost of one minute of conversation with Moscow is about 2 EUR. Calls from hotel rooms cost 3-4 times more.
Tourists who prefer to stay connected most often buy a SIM card from one of the three main Portuguese operators: TMN, Vodafone or Optimus. Their tariffs and communication quality are approximately the same, calls to Russia cost about 0.30-0.50 EUR per minute, SMS – from 0.06 EUR, incoming calls are free.
The average price of a SIM card is 10 EUR, and the entire amount is transferred to the account.
Free Wi-Fi is available in many hotels, cafes, restaurants and shopping centers in Porto. Free Internet access is also provided in some post offices.
The beaches of Porto
In Porto, there are urban beaches with sandy and pebble coverage, separated by rocky ledges. They stretch from the confluence of the Douro River into the Atlantic Ocean and end in the area of the town of Matosinhos. The beaches of Porto are equipped with everything necessary for recreation: lifeguard booths, toilets, showers, first-aid posts. Car and bicycle parking are provided everywhere, children’s playgrounds are open, fountains with drinking water are installed. You can have a snack and quench your thirst in numerous cafes and bars.
To feel at one with nature, one has only to drive a little away from Porto. In the same town of Matosinhos, where the metro runs from the Sao Bento station, there are picturesque beaches with a sandy coast. True, sometimes strong winds blow here, so it is not always possible to swim. But the trip will still bring a lot of pleasure, because it is Matosinhos that is recognized as the gastronomic capital of Portugal: the cuisine in local fish restaurants is simply delicious.
Excellent beaches in the young resort of Espinho, which can be reached by commuter train from Sao Bento Station. There are many areas with shallow water, ideal for families with children. In windy weather, the coast is occupied by surfers: the waves here are first-class. A day spent under the hot sun can be completed with a walk through the surrounding hills and forests.
The largest concentration of shops, grocery supermarkets, fashion boutiques, antique shops and souvenir shops are on the central streets of Porto: Boavista and Santa Catarina. The most colorful market is “Bolyau” on Rua de Sa da Bandeira, founded back in 1839. Today, you can buy the freshest seafood, vegetables, meat, flowers, spices and local delicacies here.
The city has many large shopping centers with cafes, bowling clubs, cinemas and a lot of other entertainment. The most famous are Via Catarina (website in English), Norte Shopping (website in English), Arrabida Shopping (website in Portuguese), Parque Nascente (website in Portuguese) and Gaia Shopping (website in Portuguese).
Of course, the best gift from Porto is the legendary local port wine, but this is far from the only possible option. Hand-painted ceramic tiles, funny figurines of cockerels, leather shoes and bags of excellent quality, gold and silver filigree jewelry are also brought from Portugal. And also – all kinds of products made from cork oak bark, which are considered almost a national symbol of the country.
The main gastronomic souvenirs from Porto are olives, cheese and egg cream.
What to try
Portuguese cuisine is hearty and simple, but no less delicious. Most of the recipes are based on fish and seafood, and, which is nice, they are served generously here: 3-4 large pieces in each serving. The locals’ favorite side dish is rice with vegetables.
You should definitely try the francesinho – a meat sandwich with sausage, ham and roast beef in a special tomato-beer sauce, as well as “feijoada” – a traditional meat dish with rice and red beans. Restaurants in Porto also serve something more exotic: for example, monkfish, wolf perch or goat cheese with a thick crust. The original first courses are fragrant cabbage and potato puree soup and signature offal soup.
A feature of Portuguese desserts is the almost universal addition of almonds and cinnamon.
But the main gastronomic pride of the country is the Vinho do Porto port wine. It is prepared according to old recipes that have come down to modern winemakers since the Middle Ages. You can try the national drink at the Museum of Port Wine, as well as in the tasting room of its main producer, Sandeman (website in English).
Cafes and restaurants in Porto
The city has a lot of cafes and restaurants that are popular with both locals and tourists with any budget. The inhabitants of Porto are avid coffee lovers, and they are very demanding on the quality of their favorite drink. That is why coffee shops with excellent service, delicious coffee and a variety of desserts are open everywhere. The most popular of them is the legendary Majestic with delicious sweets and a full restaurant menu.
They say that it was in the Majestic cafe that JK Rowling began work on Harry Potter.
Of course, the city has many fish restaurants with fresh seafood. The most famous is de Praia do Ourigo, located on the Douro waterfront. Establishments on the Santa Catarina pedestrian street offer a wide selection of national fish, meat and vegetable dishes. Many restaurants combine traditional Portuguese recipes with European, Indian, Chinese and Japanese. The average check in a premium establishment is from 25-50 EUR for a dinner for two.
There is also a favorite place for fans of cozy cafes with original interiors and affordable prices. Even the rather boring McDonald’s in Porto is unusual, built in the style of royal chambers. Lunch in an inexpensive establishment will cost 10-15 EUR per person.